Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Being Fat

Let's talk about being fat for a minute.  Yep, you heard me right.

Being fat was no fun for me.  I hated the way I looked.  I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was ashamed that I spent ten years of my life surviving my emotions by eating them.  All of them.  I didn't own a scale (and while I respect the right to the opinion that "the number on the scale doesn't matter," I feel that it most absolutely does--to me.)  I let myself get ONE HUNDRED POUNDS overweight.


Let that sink in for a minute.

One.  Hundred.  Pounds.  Overweight.

And do you know what people told me?  You're funny, kind, a real sweetheart, you have a pretty face, you're so creative and talented.  But no one ever told me the truth.  Even the doctors danced around it, afraid to offend me.  But what was maybe in the back of everyone's mind and should have been said was not.  I could have benefitted from an honest talk with friends.  But I was too busy hiding in a corner with a box of donuts to listen.

Since I was twelve years old I had made plans to get into a bikini before summer.  Every February, in the heart of winter, I would take a page out of my sketchbook, and I would write a monthly plan.  I--having no idea the reality--would set a goal of five pounds lost every week.  By summer, I'd finally fit in that bikini--and fit in with the cool kids.

But at twelve, I wasn't fat.  Not at all.  I was told I was getting fat, by people who loved me.   I'd go visit my Vietnamese grandma (my mom's step mom) and she'd say "Jessie!  You be so pretty if you not so fat!" and hand me a twenty dollar bill.  Which I'd inevitably spend on new colored pencils and candy.  I visited my dad's house every other weekend and for the summer, and it was a long drive.  At the gas station where my mom filled up the car, I'd pick out a pop and candy.  Then I'd get into my dad's car, and he'd by me a treat.  Everyone felt guilty about the situation, and I took advantage.  But I still wasn't fat.

I wasn't fat throughout middle and high school either.  I tried out for various sports teams, and would be rejected because I wasn't athletic enough.  I started to sing in choir, because it was something I was good at.  I painted pictures because it was something I was good at.  When my parents moved me to a teeny tiny school in a teeny tiny town at the beginning of my tenth grade year, I could join any sports team I wanted, because they needed all the help they could get, even in the form of a petite, non-athletic girl.  I became a cheerleader (a cheerleader in a teeny tiny school isn't as cool as you think.)  I got good grades and worked two jobs to save money for college.  I started Running Start, and went to college full time while still attending high school, but I was slowly eased out of the usual high school experiences.  Administration saw fit to exclude full-time Running Start students from cheerleading--oh wait, was I the only one that happened to?  Hm, I don't quite remember.

During my twelfth grade year (my second year of college, too) I was excluded from a lot of activities at the high school.  I "didn't make" the sports teams.  I was excused from my senior project (because I was getting a college degree.)  My wonderful music teacher was the only one who encouraged me to participate, so I still did the musicals, and sang a (horribly painful to hear) rendition of "Hands" at graduation.  But I never fit in with any group.  I was already engaged to my high school sweetheart (yep, we're still married, after being together for seventeen years) so I didn't see the need to get all dressed up and play the dating game with boys.  My parents were gone a lot.  My mom and step-dad were a long distance trucking team.  They'd leave on a Monday, be gone through the next weekend, and return the following Friday.  I worked, went to school, and did my own grocery shopping.  I was free to eat whatever I wanted.  I'd stock up on low fat yogurt, saltines, grapes, and Slim Fast powder.  And then I'd be so busy I'd run to the college and get a granola bar and juice for breakfast.  I'd stop at Taco Bell for a burrito for dinner.  When my parents were home, I'd cook the only things I'd ever had cooked for me: Hamburger Helper, spaghetti and noodles, mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy.

When I moved out for college, I was suddenly keeping a home for myself and my fiancee.  I had no clue how to cook anything, but it was liberating!  I loved going to the grocery store and trying new things.  I'd ask my step-mom for her recipes, like bread stuffed with pizza toppings, or white enchiladas made with cream of chicken soup, cheese, and sour cream.  I'd cook unhealthy foods, because I had no idea I was doing anything to harm myself.  I was so busy, I forgot to look at a mirror.  I started working in an office, and had no time to walk.  I joined a gym several times, but it was too expensive to be sustainable.  Besides, I couldn't keep up with the aerobics class I wanted to take anyway.  Yoga was more my speed, but only because it was slow.  I sweated my way up stairs and suffered through half mile walks.  And then I got pregnant, and moved across the country.  And with the hormonal shifts, depression, and lack of friends, I got fat.  Really fat.

Throughout all of this, I did not own a scale.  Looking back, I thoroughly believe that if I'd had a scale, I would have seen the numbers creeping up, and had the awareness to do something.  I don't for a minute believe that I would have let this happen had I seen it happening.

Two years ago, I jokingly joined a crossfit challenge at a local gym with a friend, and opened my eyes to a whole new world.  Since then, it's been hard.  I've shifted my entire view on food, and my husband's as well.  I've made slow and steady changes, and am currently focusing on whole foods in certain portions due to my hormonal and hereditary tendencies.  I am stronger and fitter and healthier.  I've lost 60 pounds.  I have 40 to go (possibly 50, depending on which doctor I'm talking to, ahem.)  I have lost 3 sizes.  I have lost five inches from my hips, 5 inches from my stomach, and 6 inches from my bust (rude.)  But I have not lost my perspective.  I look in the mirror and at my private, before pictures, and I do not always see a difference.  Most of the time, I still see a fat girl with a pretty face, who happens to be funny, creative, and talented.  And I've been terrified that that's all I'll ever see.  But occasionally, I look down at myself, in whatever outfit I've chosen for the day, and think fleetingly, "I look good."  It's rare, but it's there.

I still do not care to put on makeup or do my hair, something which I know bothers certain people.  I did dye my hair blue, which looks pretty cute.  I have taken a slight notice in the clothes I wear, since I can now fit into a size that manufacturers deem appropriate for cute, nicer fitting clothes.  But not much has changed with my outward appearance, aside from my size and possibly a tiny bit more self confidence.

And yet I'm noticing that people notice me more.  If I go out to the store, some men stop and talk to me (until they notice my wedding rings, haha.)  At the water park a week ago, a certain man continued to seek me out and was incredibly nice and flirtatious, no matter how many times I mentioned my husband.  A man at the grocery store had a five minute conversation about fruit and his favorite types of movies.  And I'm getting much more help with doors.

I don't sit in the dark of winter writing out a plan to lose weight, because it has become a part of my daily life.  I don't drink diet shakes and eat low fat yogurt; I choose whole, fresh foods and only eat when I'm hungry.  I'm not starving; I am doing just fine.

I appreciate that people have the right to be comfortable in their own skin.  Far be it from me to ever judge anyone based on their appearance, or by their number on the scale.  But for me, that number is important.  It told me I was risking my life.  Now, it tells me I am making progress.  Hopefully, someday it will tell me I am healthy.


Karen said...

Hey! Stumbled across your blog as I was looking for a travel case which is great BTW. This post is awesome, amazing and all kinds of wonderful! Way to go!!! I saw on Flickr there were changes but seeing the numbers is a-mazing!! Good for you, good for your kids, good for your husband!

Jessie Keating said...

Hi! Thank you so much!